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Oxo Good Grips Designers Take on Tablet Magazines

Smart looks at how traditional print media such as newspapers and magazines might be repurposed to play out in the iPad domain.

Oxo Good Grips Designers Take on Tablet Magazines

iPad

My last post about Smart Design’s take on the “iPad” of 20 years ago mused about how people
would use powerful tablet computers in the future. Lucky for us, that
future is now. With the introduction of the iPad and the inevitable
array of fast follower devices, we now have the opportunity to imagine
and develop the applications that will bring these products to life. So
what will we do with them? They’re big for a phone handset (although
that might be funny…hello!?) and pretty small for a TV. It’s like the
story of the Three Bears. As Goldilocks designers we need to find
something that’s just right.


In a recent search to find that “just right,” we looked at how
traditional print media such as newspapers and magazines might be
repurposed to play out in the iPad domain. The focus of the project was
not so much about the technology as it was about the relationship people
have with their favorite publications and how to fortify that
connection in a digital world. Matt
Barthelemy, our VP of Interaction Design explains Smart’s strategy. —Tom Dair

Smart TabMag

To set the stage for this digital magazine experience concept, I
want to give some background on how we set up the project and the
foundational ideas that drove our work.

We gave ourselves a lot of real-world constraints at the outset; we
looked at the current assets within the print versions of magazines and
the workflow that is needed to produce them. Because today, the content
developed for print media are in different formats than the content
developed for interactive media. Magazines and newspapers aren’t
typically set up to produce motion assets; they typically deal with more
static elements like photography and typography.

Our goal
was to offer a new model for serving up an enhanced version of the
familiar
magazine experience, without requiring publishers to create or license
video,
or radically change their work process. Our challenge was to make those
static
assets more dynamic–to give magazine readers a compelling experience
of that
content on a touch-based tablet like the iPad. Part of our solution is
the
dynamic nature of how a person can move through the contents of a
magazine
within our model. Additionally, we used simple techniques to animate
static
imagery, without shooting video. While we think judiciously adding video
assets
makes a lot of sense, we did not want to rely on video as the way to
create a
dynamic and compelling experience.

SmartTabMag

What we are
proposing is a new model for magazines in digital format, with the following
advantages and features:

  • For
    the readers/subscribers
    : It’s still engaging with familiar, valued,
    branded content but in an
    enhanced way that’s more entertaining, easier, and hopefully more
    helpful–even
    the ads can be more valuable. The model supports content from any
    magazine
    title. Print magazines are all bound similarly and readers page through
    from
    front to back–it’s the content inside that differentiates title from
    title–but
    the model of moving through and consuming the content is virtually
    identical.
  • For
    the publishers
    : It
    is new and more visually appealing, but keeps subscribers committed to
    the
    brands and writers they love. It’s achievable, too. By respecting the
    limitations of what they currently do, it doesn’t create a completely
    new work
    stream, nor does it require new assets.
  • For
    the advertisers
    : This format can create more consumer engagement with their ads, allowing
    the
    ads to live outside of the magazine which is a compelling reason to stay
    involved in magazine advertising and get excited about the new venue
    (with
    opportunity to learn lots of information about reader engagement, like
    how long
    the ads are viewed, which ads get acted upon, etc.) We know that ads are
    important for publishers’ business model, and their survival.

Our team talked to a variety of colleagues, friends, and
family members who are committed print magazine readers (men and women,
subscribers and news stand purchasers of a variety of magazines.) We
asked:
What do they like about the magazine experience? Why do they subscribe?
What’s
the arrival like? How is their engagement over the course of a week or
month
(for a monthly)? Do they tear out, copy, save, share, archive, or refer
to back
issues? What do they look for in every issue–regular features they like,
writers they like, eye candy they like? How do people use the Web sites
related
to magazine brands?

We talked to a former Sunset magazine editor about:

  • The print magazine production
    process: Planning content, ad sales, feature/assets submission,
    editing,
    and sequencing

  • The relationship of ads to
    content: The more ads you sell in a month, the more content you can
    support and the fatter the issue–notice how most print magazines
    are
    thinner and thinner these days?
  • The importance of ads in the
    revenue model
  • The importance of subscribers,
    and of retaining subscribers every year at renewal time: How can publications
    verify
    to advertisers how many eyeballs their ads can reach?
  • The trends in
    publishing: While
    print readership might be shrinking, what are the keys to moving
    into a
    new way of thinking about magazine content and deliver?

For the
iPad and other tablets, we knew the solution should take advantage of a
tablet’s ability to interact with information beyond what a print
version can
offer, to introduce subtle motion/animation without requiring additional
video
content, to remember things a reader wants to save, and to immediately
search
for, find, and jump to features in an issue. However, we decided not to
take
people out of the branded, “chosen” world of the magazine. People told
us they
choose to read a magazine so that they can immerse themselves in that
content,
in that familiar and valued experience. Linking out to other websites
and
videos would take people out of the experience, and perhaps lead them to
not
come back anytime soon.

Our team
worked through our many ideas to distill a coherent model that respects
the
limitations we set to propose a new and efficient content publishing “container.” We think this is a viable and compelling model for moving
magazine
content onto new touch-based tablets, and providing people with new
immersive,
engaging experiences with that content.

Take a
look. We’d love to hear what other people think of the concept.

Matt
Barthelemy is VP of Interaction Design for Smart Design.

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